Saturday, April 07, 2012

More on Augusta

Loved Christine Brennan's column about current Augusta National president, Billy Payne. Earlier this week, Payne refused to talk about the women issue in a press conference noting--as have others before him--that membership issues are not discussed publicly. (Kind of like Skull and Bones--except they started letting women be members in the early 1990s--much to William F. Buckley's dismay.)
As noted earlier, the issue has arisen again (appropriate so close to Easter) with more force because of the appointment of a female CEO at IBM. This position usually garners a membership at Augusta for the holder. But Payne wouldn't comment.
Funny--he had a lot to say about it when he was involved in getting golf into the Olympics for the 1996 Atlanta Games. He wanted the competition--for men and women--to be held at Augusta where he thought women's participation would show those stodgy, old men of the club just what women could do.
So, what happened?
Payne even used the "no comment on membership issues" excuse when a reporter asked: "Don't you think it would send a wonderful message to young girls around the world if they knew that one day they could join this very famous golf club?"
The reporter--correctly--noted that this was not a membership issue. And another added that there seems to be some mixed messages being sent when the president of one of the most famous golf courses in the world is talking about the need to expand the game and then won't talk about how it continues to exclude some people.
Brennan notes that this seems counterintuitive. Golf is on the decline. Why not market it more toward women and bring in new blood? Two things. One, I think golf is a hard sell for women and not just because of its exclusionary history. Women have less time than men to to spend on recreational sporting activities. I like golf enough. But whenever I go out to play--just nine holes, mind you--I think: I could have played four sets of tennis in this time, or ridden 50 miles on my bike--and burned thousands more calories. Cost benefit analysis. And I am child-free, middle class white woman--and a gay girl to boot!
Second, I don't believe (and this is how I know I am not a true Marxist) that financial incentives always trump discrimination. I think people in power will often, in their desire to maintain a discriminatory status quo, work against their own financial interests. In part, because they have the privilege of being financially solvent enough to do so. Billy Payne and Augusta National are not hurting for money. So his speech about growing the game and impeding the decline seem a little like lip service when considered from this perspective.

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